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CCU’s Edwards College prepares online course instruction

March 23, 2020
 Departments in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts have been working to adapt to an online environment -- a particular challenge for fine arts disciplines tradition Departments in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts have been working to adapt to an online environment -- a particular challenge for fine arts disciplines tradition Departments in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts have been working to adapt to an online environment -- a particular challenge for fine arts disciplines tradition

After Coastal Carolina University announced that all instruction would be redirected to an online environment for the duration of Spring 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students wondered if there would even be a “rest of the semester.” Departments in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts have been working to adapt to an online environment -- a particular challenge for fine arts disciplines traditionally grounded in face-to-face interaction.

Faculty have worked tirelessly to ensure that students feel prepared to tackle their studies when classes go online Monday, March 23, by taking advantage of technology and their own creative approaches to enact immediate solutions.

In the Department of Theatre, some faculty members incorporated live video conferencing for student meetings, while others created video lectures and tutorials to coincide with online tests and discussions. Student assignments include uploading video recordings of auditions for “Romeo and Juliet,” along with submitting work in the form of papers, videos, files, and drawings.

Eric Hall, chair and associate professor in the Department of Theatre, said the shift to online coursework in such an experiential field appeared daunting, but as the technology kept encouraging creative approaches, that fear quickly dissolved.

“Technology offers many options for us, and as we keep exploring, we keep coming up with more creative alternatives for in-class instruction,” said Hall. “Faculty have been committed to offering comparable and valuable alternatives to facilitate the completion of courses online, and it is very exciting in many ways. In many cases, it will allow for more one-on-one interactions with students as we respond to their work in the online environment.”

The Department of English has prepared by doubling down on online resources created by its faculty. Instructors have been encouraged to continue using the “Coastal Writer’s Reference” textbook and Composition Commons, the department’s award-winning online learning platform designed by Denise Paster, associate professor and coordinator of composition, and Alan Reid, assistant professor. Composition instructors have also built online activities and discussions that will keep students focused on the courses’ learning outcomes. Additionally, with help from Scott Pleasant, Writing Center coordinator, the Writing Center has prepared online tutorials readily available to download.

Easton Selby, associate dean of the Edwards College and professor in the Department of Visual Arts, emphasized how impressed he’s been with the college’s ability to adapt for the long term.

“This a moment where we have to make calculated decisions, and we have to make them fast,” said Selby. “From what I can see and what I can tell, all of the faculty are doing an amazing job of taking what they do – both in and outside of the classroom – and working creatively to transition their normal classroom environment to an online scale, for an online system.”

Selby spoke of the adaptability required of his own department. In reference to drawing courses, he acknowledged the plethora of materials one could creatively use besides a pencil. Selby was particularly impressed by a colleague’s suggestion of using common household items.

“I saw a faculty member post about how you can use items from your kitchen such as mustard and ketchup as a means to draw with,” said Selby. “It’s all about material usage.”

Claudia Bornholdt, dean of the Edwards College, also noted the high quality of innovation and creative approaches she’s seen among faculty.

“I’m impressed by how quickly the faculty and the staff in the college have come together to share ideas and resources, and to guarantee that our students will continue to experience the high-impact education they are accustomed to in the Edwards College,” Bornholdt said. “We are proving that the skills acquired in a liberal arts education prepare us to adapt to new situations, find creative solutions, collaboratively solve problems, and effectively communicate in writing, speaking, and now also on all sorts of new media platforms.”

Beyond the Edwards College, CCU has taken additional measures to ensure a smooth online transition. Kimbel Library is available for online assistance via chat, text message, email, or phone, and can also provide downloadable resources, like scanned materials for course reserves, at students’ convenience. For students who have been geographically displaced from their textbooks and course materials, CCU is partnering with VitalSource to provide free access to an online catalog of e-textbooks. Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. is also offering free e-textbooks for students impacted by the closures. Additionally, Norton is aiding the Department of English with paid composition resources like InQuizitive for Writers and the tutorials for the popular composition textbook “They Say, I Say,” free of charge.

For admitted students, CCU broadcasted live events throughout the week of March 15-21. These livestreams highlighted student life and academics at CCU with in-depth explanations provided by Provost Dan Ennis, college deans, and additional faculty and staff. All broadcasts are archived and available to view after the live event. To access this content, click here. Selby said he is confident in the college’s ability to see the rest of this semester through.

“With the way that things have been moving and rotating and changing, I think that we are in a really good spot moving forward so long as we maintain this pace.”